Some may think of empathy as a soft skill or often confuse it with sympathy, kindness or pity. However, empathy is a hard business skill and a critical component of greatness. In business, being nice can be an important virtue but genuine empathy is something different; something much deeper. It is the ability to step into the shoes of your client and understand their feelings and perspectives and to use those understandings to guide strategy, decisions and actions.
Genuine empathy becomes the revolutionary shift in how we understand human nature. The old view that companies are self-interested entities is being nudged firmly to one side by evidence that they must be wired for empathy, social cooperation and mutual aid.
Minding the gap
Genuine empathic insurers have an insatiable curiosity about their clients. Curiosity expands empathy. Identifying what is missing for your client is a great start to finding solutions for what your unfulfilled clients desire. The “minding the gap” approach has been the solution to creating successful services and products for many companies.
When you speak to your policyholders, find out what is missing in their lives. What is causing friction, discontent and deficiency when using your products or services? What can you improve or make better? This will provide you with a useful map to create new products, services, solutions and innovation – and add value. Avoid evaluating competitors’ offerings to find an improvement; rather focus on “minding the gap” of your policyholders’ needs. It will open new ways and innovative solutions.
“Minding the gap” can apply to insurers’ operations as well. Focusing on small and internal soft issues can lead to improvements that will help to protect and assist your company against emerging competitive threats.
Genuine empathy is intuitive
Empathy is essentially about awareness of people’s feelings and the ability to apply that awareness to strengthen the connection with them. Progressive companies, without exception, are intuitive – and act on their intuition. These companies are continuously aware and ask questions about how to solve or improve the client‘s total experience.
Find a long-term solution
Real empathy holds the unique power to build understanding and a connection with clients. Do not slap a quick fix onto an existing problem without getting to the root cause. Genuine empathy requires going beyond the quick fix and investing in an actual solution.
Empathy lies at the heart of design thinking, which anticipates the human experience first. The core differentiator of design thinking is to focus on the client, but more importantly, in relation to an overall goal, realistically analysed in the greater context of the bigger system.
Total experience strategy is based on the idea that no experience operates in a vacuum. Employee experience impacts client experience. User experience impacts employee experience, and so on. They are interconnected and interdependent, and yet because of how they evolved as business disciplines, are rarely treated as such.
Consider the customer’s experience of obtaining an insurance policy, submitting a claim, and paying an excess. Now focus on your experience as an insurer when it comes to understanding your customers’ risk profiles and liabilities, or creating an asset register, or renewing their policies with you. Once insurers recognise that they are in the experience business, they will be able to overcome a cultural shift.
When empathy is the dominant goal of your insurance company, it can position you to disrupt your industry and create a turning point to humanise your product or service away from a marginalised existence. Companies that master the art of empathy have a habit of disrupting the worlds they live in. When you step into the client’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, it can leapfrog you miles ahead of the competition.
Companies that cultivate widespread empathy see new opportunities quickly, have the gut-level intuition to try something new and maintain the courage to stick with ideas that don’t take off right away. Empathy often leads to growth, regardless of the overall economic climate.
Wired to care
One big problem with corporate innovation is that it is increasingly data-led, rather than human-led. Companies are too quick to reduce people to Excel spreadsheets, statistical segments or the deprived ciphers of data. When clients continue to flock to digital channels for most interactions, we lose the most important perspective that counts – the human perspective. We cannot lose touch and stop caring for the people for whom we’re innovating. When we stop caring, it has a domino effect on sales and growth. To offset this, we need an injection of humanity and caring, and this means becoming an empathic organisation that is wired to care for the people it serves. After all, client experience makes all the difference, and the cornerstone of superior client experience is empathy.